Take the pain away from IT

IT and OT in smart buildings

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IT and Operational Technology (OT) departments have a lot in common: IT and smart OT devices are IP-enabled. They communicate on networks. They breathe life into cold, brick and mortar buildings.  

IT and Operational Technology (OT) departments have a lot in common: IT and smart OT devices are IP-enabled. They communicate on networks. They breathe life into cold, brick and mortar buildings.  

But when you look a little closer, IT and OT have very separate needs. The protocols, security standards, bandwidth, and required skills are entirely different. Yet, on converged networks, they’re managed as one — always by the IT department.

So, one department has control over the entire building, and the other has none. The problem is, computers are not the same as CCTV, HVAC, and other mechanical equipment. The devices don’t behave the same way, they aren’t managed the same way, and they aren’t secured in the same way. The IT devices require networking knowledge, while OT devices require mechanical equipment know-how and BMS management. These are different skills. Trying to shoehorn one expert into another’s role just doesn’t work. It’s like asking a psychologist to replace a brain surgeon. There might be similarities between the fields — in this case, both are doctors who deal with brains — but I know who I’d rather have hold the scalpel. 

When the IT and OT networks are separated, OT can truly take the pain away from IT. After all, IT isn’t trained to understand OT equipment, so how can it fully support OT systems? If the networks are separated, two departments are responsible for their own network and their own success. This is one reason we at Optigo recommend separate IT and OT networks.

Separation also makes for more secure networks. Typically, OT devices are not secured properly, if at all, because doing so is painful, and requires many lines of CLI. If an edge device isn’t properly secured, though, there might be vulnerabilities that a hacker can capitalize on. With an Optigo ConnectTM  OT network, OT network managers can easily secure their network with one click. Then if they need to reopen a closed port, or lock a port to a different MAC address, they can individually make the changes, rather than relying on IT.

Converged networks can also cause a lot of quality problems. In the case of Seattle’s premier sports venue, it led to major bandwidth issues. The bandwidth was maxed out by the IT network. Because of this, their state-of-the-art surveillance system was glitching, and even dropping out. They weren’t getting the full value of the HD cameras they’d invested in. The only way to solve these bandwidth constraints was to completely separate the surveillance system from the IT network.

Learn more in our case study on the Seattle stadium’s bandwidth woes.

If you’re working on a converged network, maybe this all sounds familiar. Maybe you’ve been frustrated by a lack of control. Maybe you’ve seen slow networks. Maybe you’ve had security issues. If you have, I’d urge you to learn more about OT networks. Separation might seem drastic, but it’s the logical way to manage a building full of smart devices with diverse needs.

Read the Basics of OT Networks

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